The Christian Science Monitor Photo
Kampala: The World Health Organization [WHO] launched a new manual for authorities to increase the use of helmets for motorcycle riders today. The second edition of the Helmets Manual offers guidance to help leaders establish the laws, regulations and actions needed to increase the use of safe, quality helmets to save lives.
Head trauma is the leading cause of death for motorcycle riders, and safe, quality helmets reduce the risk of death by over six times and brain injury by up to 74%. Yet the use of quality helmets in many low-and middle-income countries remains low, even as the number of motorcycles increases rapidly.
Summary – Rapid increase in motorcycles and low use of safe, quality helmets risks a spike in road deaths in low-and middle-income countries
Uganda is not exceptional on road accidents caused by ill trained and untrained riders across the country. The National Referral Hospital Mulago says majority of accident victims are boda bodas.
‘As motorcycles proliferate at an astonishing rate, especially in low and middle-income countries, urgent action is needed to stave off a rapid rise in deaths and injuries in the coming years,’ said Dr Matts-Ake Belin, Global Lead for the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030 at WHO.
Factors holding back the use of helmets include a lack of safe, quality and affordable helmets, a lack of available helmets for children, weak law enforcement and hot weather. Helmets that are not properly fastened also increase the risk of death and injury.
‘Authorities must put the laws, frameworks and actions in place to boost the availability and uptake of safe, quality helmets. Rooted in evidence, the latest manual sets out what is needed,’ said Dr Belin.
The manual should help establish a comprehensive approach to increasing helmet use, including a universal helmet law, helmet quality standards, enforcement and education. It includes guidance on data capture and analysis, reviewing laws, policies and regulations, establishing a theory of change and monitoring and evaluating progress.
‘To reduce all deaths from road crashes, actions that aim to increase the use of helmets must be applied as part of a wider shift to a safe systems approach to road safety and mobility. The safe systems approach recognizes that road transport is a complex system with many interconnecting elements that all affect each other,’ said Dr Belin.
Enshrined in the Global Plan for the 2nd Decade of Action for Road Safety, the safe systems approach is being adopted by increasing numbers of countries. It recognizes the limits of the human body to tolerate the force from crashes, accepts that people will make mistakes, and works to mitigate the damage from these mistakes. The approach has led to big reductions in deaths and injuries in countries like Norway and Sweden.
The Helmets Manual was launched at the Bloomberg Philanthropies Initiative for Global Road Safety Regional Meeting for Asia in Mumbai, India. The Initiative for Global Road Safety helps to implement a comprehensive package of activities proven to save lives. Over two days, nearly 200 representatives from across five countries in Asia [Bangladesh, China, India, Malaysia, and Viet Nam] are meeting in Mumbai to exchange best practices and share lessons from their efforts to reduce deaths and injuries.
The publication is part of a series of manuals that are co-produced by WHO, the Global Road Safety Partnership [GRSP], the FIA Foundation and the World Bank, with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies.